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#5 / Don’t Worry, Be Happy! / the affective filter hypothesis

Have you ever heard of Bobby McFerrin and his famous song, Don’t Worry, Be Happy? McFerrin is a jazz singer who became famous for his a cappella (without instruments) music. You can find the song on iTunes. I’m sure it will make you smile!

There’s one line in the song that is important for language students. McFerrin sings, “When you worry, you make life tough (difficult).” We can say the same thing about acquiring new language. Even if you understand the English you are reading and listening to, you can still do things that make language acquisition difficult. Here’s how:

  • By being anxious (worried or nervous).
  • By having low self esteem (thinking “I can’t do this!”).
  • By thinking of yourself as an English outsider (an outsider is someone who would like to be part of a group, but isn’t) rather than someone who is becoming a fluent English user.

How can you use this information to help your English acquisition process?

First, when you are looking for something to read or listen to, look for something interesting. Find books or podcasts that are so interesting that you get absorbed in them (they take all of your attention). If you are reading or listening to something that isn’t interesting, stop! Find something that is.

Second, relax! Read or listen for fun. You don’t have to study the things that you read or listen to. If they are interesting and you can understand them, you will acquire more English. Trust the natural process. It works!

Finally, imagine that you are becoming an English-user! Visualize (see the movie in your mind) yourself using English the way you hope to use it in the future. Ignore those things you call mistakes. They will slowly disappear if you keep reading and listening. Imagine yourself speaking or writing English comfortably and confidently.

Listen to Bobby McFerrin. Don’t worry, be happy with your English acquisition process! And welcome to the English club (a group of people who do or are interested in the same thing)!

Reading Questions

After you finish reading, think about these questions. Click on the links below to answer them and see what others are saying.
  1. In your words, what is the main idea?
  2. What is one practical way that you, or someone else, could use or apply this information?
  3. What questions do you have? Is there something you didn't understand? Is there something that you would like to know more about?

Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
Question 2: How can we use it? wediger wediger 1 60 Dec 27, 2009 by mayssa23 mayssa23
Question 1: What's the main idea? wediger wediger 1 67 Dec 27, 2009 by mayssa23 mayssa23
Question 3: Your Questions wediger wediger 0 55 Mar 13, 2009 by wediger wediger
Other Comments wediger wediger 0 55 Mar 13, 2009 by wediger wediger

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